Isaac Farris Jr. inspires students with mother’s new book during R.E.A.L. Men Read
In honor of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, APS helped make this month’s R.E.A.L. Men Read event a family affair. Isaac Farris Jr. read to students at Hope-Hill and Toomer elementary schools from “My Brother Martin,” a children’s book by his mother, Christine King Farris. (Check out the photo gallery here.) Subtitled “A Sister Remembers: Growing up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” the book features rich illustrations (by Chris Soentpiet) that detail the civil-rights legend and Atlanta native’s work in the movement (and his home life) during the 1950s and 60s.
While regular R.E.A.L. Men Read volunteers Mike Howard, Frederick Rucker and Andre Barron focused on their second-grade classes, Farris read to the school’s entire third-grade class assembled in the media center.
Farris, currently a Senior Fellow at the King Center, was thrilled with the experience and wowed by the questions from students, who asked him about one story in the book about his uncle being disallowed to play with local white neighborhood kids by their parents when he was growing — and, surprisingly enough, about the assassination in 1968.
“That was so profound,” Farris said. “It’s just a reminder … you hear so much about inner-city school systems, and how they’re full of flunking teachers and flunking students. Not that I have, but it’s easy for some to buy into that stereotype. But it’s so nice to go into the schools and see how false that stereotype that is.” Farris also delighted in the chemistry between the teachers and students: “That’s another kind of misconception, that teachers really don’t care. The vibe and the energy you get from these teachers and students are pure.”
That wasn’t lost on the Hope-Hill staff. “The students responded really well,” said Hope-Hill Principal Dr. Cassandra Miller-Ashley. “He asked a lot of thought-provoking questions, and that I thought went really well with the kids because they were able to relate their real-life experiences through his questioning. He definitely would pause to hear what the students’ reflections were. Wanted to hear what the students were thinking.”
The inspiration for this particular reading came from Kelli Bacote-Boone, SRT-3 model teacher leader who helped bring the program from the Chicago public school system where she worked. Dr. Miller-Ashley has been excited about the success of the program, which started last fall and features male role models reading children’s books to second-graders.
I think it’s very inspiring, especially for our boys, to have men come in and read to them,” Dr. Miller-Ashley noted. “The girls tend to read more, so with the boys seeing the men read more, it inspires them to check out more books, and read more. And it’s not just about the reading; the boys are really engaged with the adult men. It’s like a mentorship opportunity, because they know his male figure will be back next month.”